Renowned car designer Chris Bangle, former Chief of Design for BMW, poses a thought-provoking question: Can car design thrive in a society devoid of a definitive automotive culture? As the automotive industry undergoes a transformative shift towards electrification and autonomy, it's imperative to explore the implications for the future of car design.

The Importance of Automotive Culture

Automotive culture plays a pivotal role in shaping the design of cars. It serves as a source of inspiration, imbuing vehicles with emotional depth and cultural significance. For instance, American muscle cars embody the nation's spirit of freedom and power, while Japanese kei cars reflect the country's emphasis on efficiency and compactness.

Without a strong automotive culture, car design risks becoming sterile and devoid of character. Vehicles may simply be perceived as utilitarian objects, devoid of the emotional connection that drives enthusiasts.

The Challenges of a Shifting Landscape

The advent of electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous driving poses unique challenges for car designers. EVs lack the visceral appeal of internal combustion engines, while autonomous cars may eliminate the need for driver input and traditional controls.

These technological advancements could erode the emotional connection between drivers and their vehicles, leading to a decline in car culture. Moreover, as vehicles become increasingly connected and software-defined, the role of physical design elements may diminish.

The Imperative of Innovation

Despite the challenges, Chris Bangle believes that car design must continue to innovate and evolve. He emphasizes the need for designers to embrace new technologies while preserving the emotional appeal of cars.

Bangle suggests that EVs can be designed to evoke a sense of excitement through novel powertrain characteristics and futuristic aesthetics. Autonomous cars, too, can offer unique design opportunities, such as more spacious and luxurious interiors.

The Role of Storytelling and Emotion

Storytelling plays a crucial role in connecting drivers with their vehicles. Car designers should craft compelling narratives that resonate with consumers and create a sense of belonging. Emotion, too, remains paramount in car design. Vehicles should evoke a range of feelings, from nostalgia to excitement, in order to truly captivate drivers.

The Power of Collaboration

To address the challenges of the future, car designers should collaborate with engineers, technologists, and cultural experts. By working together, they can create vehicles that seamlessly integrate technology, innovation, and emotional appeal.


While the future of car design amidst a culture shift remains uncertain, Chris Bangle emphasizes the need for innovation, storytelling, and collaboration. By embracing new technologies while preserving the emotional connection between drivers and their vehicles, designers can ensure that the future of car design is both captivating and meaningful.

Key Points

  • Automotive culture provides inspiration and emotional depth to car design.
  • The transition to EVs and autonomous driving poses challenges for car design.
  • Designers must innovate and evolve to adapt to the changing landscape.
  • Storytelling and emotion are essential in connecting drivers with their vehicles.
  • Collaboration between designers, engineers, and cultural experts is crucial for success.
  • The future of car design lies in seamlessly integrating technology, innovation, and emotional appeal.

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